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Birdageddon!

RSPB Saltholme, by @Keith_M_Photo

I’m something of a bird-watching enthusiast and so can often be found thinking about visiting my local reserve, RSPB Saltholme. You can imagine, therefore, my alarm and surprise to discover that the RSPB had recently approved the building of a gas turbine power station on land immediately adjacent to such precious habitat – cherished as it is by spoonbills, avocets and black-tailed godwits as their safe space within which to be beautiful. Angrily, I sought out the RSPB’s own announcement, in order to read the following explanation, found strutting under the headline: ‘Why aren’t the RSPB fighting this development and what exactly is being proposed?’

“As the UK continues the transition towards a low carbon economy, renewable energy is ever more prominent as the lowest cost, cleanest form of electricity generation. But with a higher proportion of our energy sourced from renewables, it is becoming increasingly challenging to balance the UK grid and keep the lights on, particularly when there is little wind or during times of peak demand.

During the transition period of starting to use more renewable energy  there will be periods when there is a gap in the supply and demand, typically at peak evening and morning activity times.

Currently, this extra demand is supplied by large gas turbine power stations running at low load, which when used like this are very inefficient and have a relatively high carbon footprint as they take a long time to start and stop when the extra electricity may only be needed for a very short time. In contrast, modern, gas reciprocating engines like the ones proposed at Saltholme, are far more efficient and produce a lot less carbon as they can be started and stopped very quickly.  It has been estimated that using one of these peaking plants to provide the peak demand cover in place of a big gas turbine power station could cut carbon emissions by the equivalent of 10,000 cars annually.

Although the RSPB is fundamentally against the further use of fossil fuels for providing our country’s base load electricity generation, this type of facility could actually help reduce carbon emissions during the period of transition towards a true low carbon, renewable energy economy by reducing the amount of gas used by large inefficient powerplants designed to be running at full power being used as a stop start backup.”

Upon reading this, I felt ashamed. How could I have possibly doubted the motives of that most wonderful organization, the RSPB? Having put its not inconsiderable political support behind the building of the massive, off-shore, migrating-bird-macerating windfarms decorating the Northeast Coast, what better idea but to build a teensy-weensy gas turbine station on the doorstep of the sanctuary provided for the migratory survivors? After all, by not approving a big powerplant, they have saved so much carbon! And let us not forget, it will only be needed when the wind turbines are not actively flicking the birds out of the sky. Sounds like a win-win to me.

15 thoughts on “Birdageddon!

  1. It sounds as shallow and false as the rationalizations used to build a mega-sized wind farm next to the only winter habitat for the main Whooping Crane habitat. Which happens to be next to Corpus Christi, Texas. The center of the cheapest and most plentiful natural gas supplies in the nation.
    These climate fools will destroy the world to save it.
    How much “donation” was given to the Royal Society to justify this bit of intellectual gymnastics?

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  2. Statera: green energy ideologues getting very rich by making energy very expensive so that the UK government can virtue-signal its green credentials to the rest of the world by transitioning to a zero carbon economy.
    Birds don’t matter. Bats don’t matter. People don’t matter.
    https://stateraenergy.co.uk/

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  3. Thanks for the link Jaime. Reading Statera’s claims to performing ecological due diligence, I am reminded of my involvement with Banks Renewables, when they proposed to build three massive wind turbines on the outskirts of the Yorkshire market town within which I live. They too boasted all sorts of safeguards and procedures to ensure that the impact of the turbines would be acceptable to all. Despite objections from the North Yorkshire National Park, local MPs and a hastily organized local action group, Banks remained happy that they had done all that was required of them and that the scheme enjoyed the overwhelming support of the locals. Their claims for support were based upon a sampling of opinion. The sampling process ran as follows:

    a) Hold a consultation meeting in the local town hall but advertise the meeting only two days beforehand and choose only to advertise it in the free paper distributed to the town next door.

    b) Hold the meeting during a workday, when only unwitting retired folk seeking shelter from the cold happened to attend. (I know this because I was one of the old fogeys who happened to drop in).

    c) Invite feedback, by email, only from the very few who accidentally turned up to the ill-attended meeting.

    d) Take the 24 responses (yes, 24 responses) thus solicited and perform a statistical analysis on them to draw conclusions regarding the opinions of the broader community affected (some 15, 000 inhabitants).

    In the end, 12 were against it and 12 others (beguiled by what that nice young man had to say) were for it.

    I wrote a letter to the Banks project manager pointing out how wholly inappropriate it was to draw conclusions on such a pathetically inadequate sample, contrived in such an inept way. I pointed out that basic sampling theory meant that either confidence levels or precision levels would have to suffer with such a low sample. So, for example, if he wanted to draw a conclusion with a 99% confidence level, it could only be that between 20-80% of the population supported the scheme, i.e. next to nothing meaningful could be concluded with any confidence. He responded by denying that his claims for support constituted a conclusion! I decided not to waste any further time on him.

    Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the ‘perfect site’ suddenly became unviable as soon as the government withdrew its subsidies. Banks Renewables pulled out of the project, apologising profusely to the jubilant locals for having failed to deliver the wind farm that they had so desperately wanted on their doorstep.

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  4. … In contrast, modern, gas reciprocating engines like the ones proposed at Saltholme, are far more efficient and produce a lot less carbon as they can be started and stopped very quickly. …

    I note the word “reciprocating”. Does this mean it’s going to be sparked diesel instead of a turbine?

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  5. That’s a good selection of photographs Paul. I particularly like the second one since it is very similar to one I took myself of the offending wind farm. As can be seen from that photo, the wind farm is discreetly positioned off shore, but on a clear day can still be seen by the good folk of Redcar!

    Meanwhile, as far as the location of the proposed power station is concerned, it is noise pollution that constitutes the major concern, both during construction and operation. This is a concern for local residents as well as the wildlife on the reserve. Stratera, don’t seem to think this is a problem, nor do they have any problem increasing the projected noise levels even after the project has received planning permission! Note the following article:

    https://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/teesside-news/saltholme-power-stations-too-noisy-16070898

    In particular, note what the MP for Stockton North has said regarding Stratera:

    “Stratera Energy Limited, who I understand are the company behind Saltholme Power Limited, already have a track record of applying for one thing, changing their minds, achieving planning permission and then changing their minds again. Sadly they seem to think they can demand changes to their planning permission and ride roughshod over objections from the local community, who were until now, tolerant of the original proposal.”

    These are the games these companies play.

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  6. John, I also noticed two more blots on the landscape, right on the edge of the NYM National Park. You are probably aware of these. One was called “Lockwood site” and the other “Woodsmith site”. Many lorries and cranes. Googling shows that they are going to be new mines, for potash, and that there were various unsuccessful objections.

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  7. Yes, the proposed potash mining has been something of a local hot potato, particularly with respect to the Woodsmith site. I am more familiar with the Lockwood site since it is adjacent to the main Teesside to Whitby road, just opposite another bird watchers’ favourite location, Lockwood Beck. I have to say though, the company concerned has had to accept a number of significant concessions before permission was granted, not the least of which was the digging of a 23 mile long tunnel to transport the potash to Teesside, rather than use an over-ground means of transportation. It’s an impressive undertaking.

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  8. I am rather pleased objections were unsuccessful. Some years ago I was employed as a consultant to give my advice about the potash strata that would be exploited in new mines sited on the North York Moors National Park. Plans were to exploit beds of polyhalite (a complex magnesium calcium.and potassium sulphate) rather than the potassium chloride of the existing Yorkshire potash mine.) These potash salts only occur in this area of Yorkshire, nowhere else in the UK. The only comparable european locations are in the Kalinograd enclave of Russia which is deemed politically “unsuitable”. The total reserves in Yorkshire are extremely large and valuable.
    It was quite some years ago when I was involved and knew about the mine proposal. I was very impressed. Only the top of the winding gear was to be visible, all of the buildings and workings were to be within a shallow cavern (so out of sight) and the material to be removed was to be transported to a transport-ship dock (the polyhalite) or disposed of at sea (unwanted rocksalt) carried there by an underground railway. So impressed was I that I urged the developers to widely publish their plans in trade magazines as an example of a near invisible mine. Instead plans were temporarily abandoned (I believe a new mine in Thailand altered world supply) and I learned no more. If the original plans have been resumed, I am very pleased. It shows that with careful, sensitive planning a mine can be located within a National Park almost out of sight after the build.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Alan,

    Yes, I think it speaks volumes for the value of the potash that the company concerned would commit to building a tunnel for transportation rather than risk rejection of the proposal on environmental grounds.

    Getting back to the Redcar wind farm, you will note from the following article that those responsible had not been entirely indifferent to the plight of the locals and wildlife:

    https://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/local-news/redcar-offshore-wind-farm-piling-3675676

    Nevertheless, you will also not the same level of kidology that I personally encountered with Banks Renewables. On the one hand, the project manager responsible for the Redcar Wind Farm said at the time of the proposal:

    “Local reaction has been generally very positive. Some people don’t like them and you’ll never appease them, but in general it’s been favourable.”

    On the other hand 6,500 locals signed a petition in futile opposition!

    Also, Paul, myself and the vast majority of the local residents might find the wind farm ugly, but those that proposed it genuinely thought it would be a tourist attraction and greatly boost the local economy. More kidology, I suspect.

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  10. John
    Scoby Sands Wind Farm immediately offshore Great Yarmouth is treated as a tourist attraction with an explanatory booth on the sea front with customary seaside telescopes. Was of interest when being built, but now largely ignored: rotor blades either still or endlessly turning so so slowly, endlessly boooriiing. Now if one of the nacelles were to act up….

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  11. Alan,

    Thanks for the information regarding the Scoby Sands wind farm. It is indeed a mystery how these people can decide what is, and what is not, likely to serve as a tourist attraction. Some years ago, the Labour council in Redcar determined itself to spend squidillions to turn Redcar into the tourist mecca of the northern hemisphere. So they asked the locals what they thought Redcar would benefit the most from. The answer given was unequivocal: “Give us a pier please”. So the council did. They built a tower and called it a “vertical pier”. The Labour council leader who pushed it through wanted it to be known as “The Dunning Tower” to commemorate his glory, but this was over-ruled.

    But was it a tourist magnet? We will never know. Just to make sure the statistics worked, the council moved the public toilets into the tower’s ground floor and counted everyone taking a slash as one of Dunning’s pilgrims. The curious may wish to google ‘Redcar Beacon’ to see images of the only construction on the Northeast Coast that actually makes the wind farms look pretty.

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